Panthers Notebook: Olsen ready for workload

The Carolina Panthers had a luxury at tight end last season with both Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen serving as a tandem. 

Shockey, the hard-nosed veteran with a flair for the bizarre, and Olsen, the younger vet with similar potential but a vastly different demeanor, teamed together to give the Panthers and rookie quarterback one of the best tight end duos in the NFL. They combined to haul in 82 passes for 995 yards and nine touchdowns. 

But as individuals, those weren’t the kinds of numbers either player had been used to posting. And with Carolina having brought in more established wide receivers and multi-dimensional mighty-might Mike Tolbert to complement 12-year star Steve Smith, there wasn’t a need for Shockey anymore.

So now the majority of the work load will go to Olsen, and second-year head coach Ron Rivera is excited about this opportunity. He’s so confident in Olsen he believes the former Miami Hurricane can reach the level of NFL star tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski of the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, respectively. 

“I think he can be right in there with them,” Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy. But, you watch him catch footballs, you watch him run routes, and you see those traits and say, ‘you know what, he can fit right into that group.’

“So we’re excited about it. I think it’s an opportunity for him and I think it’s a chance that he looks forward to.”

Olsen has already proven he can handle the role. In 2008 and 2009 he combined to grab 114 passes for 1,186 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Chicago Bears. Last season, however, he was at just 45 catches for 540 yards and five scores. 

The sixth-year veteran from New Jersey agrees with his coach.

“That’s how I’ve always thought of myself,” Olsen said. “Sometimes, situations dictate stats. I don’t necessarily just look at it as a lot of stats. I’ve had years where I’ve had good stats but thought my overall play wasn’t as good as it could have been. And in the past couple of years, I felt like I’ve played good ball – I didn’t catch as many balls as I have, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. 

“Last year, with me and Shock both being here, sometimes things got a little diluted and at first glance you think you had a down year, but when you go back and watch tape all you can do it with the opportunities that you have. And I think that was the case with the two of us being pretty productive as a unit rather than as individuals.”

Gettis Could Be Back Soon

Third-year wide receiver David Gettis has done very little since the Carolina Panthers opened training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., on July 28, but that may soon change. 

Gettis hauled in 37 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2010, but he missed all of last season after tearing his ACL last summer. Now, Gettis can be seen with ice wrapped around his knee and doing other things with trainers and on his own hoping to finally get back onto the field. 

According to Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera, that could be by the end of this week, though Gettis won’t play Saturday night when the Houston Texans visit for both teams’ exhibition season openers. 

“The biggest thing about David is just continuing to work and see how those things go,” Rivera said. “It’s one of those things that are still bothering him. And the hard part is it’s on the leg that’s bothering him, on the knee that was repaired, so you really have to be careful.”

Progress has been made, though.

“There’s a lot of positive that have come out of this, but the unfortunate thing is he can’t do limited things with us in terms of what we’re doing offensively, so he’s had to work to the side and try to push himself through.” 

Gettis hopes to land a spot on the roster, though the competition is steep. The sooner he can get on the field the better his chance of being place on the active roster and making the team.

Medlock Versus Mare

Veteran placekicker Olindo Mare is in a real battle to make the roster with a journeyman who has spent most of his last few years kicking in the CFL. 

Left-footed Justin Medlock is in Spartanburg not to push Mare, but to win the job. He’s played for four CFL teams, one in the United Football League, and this is fifth different NFL camp. But here he’s taking on someone in his 16th NFL season who has amassed 430 made field goals and 480 converted extra points. 

“I always say this game is 99 percent mental, and I think we all have the talent to do it,” Medlock said. “And if you’re here you are obviously good enough.”